North Carolina-Wake Forest Preview

The Associated Press

North Carolina's already potent offense has the potential to be even more lethal if it can build on an impressive showing from 3-point range.

This could spell trouble for Wake Forest, which is likely going to have enough issues keeping pace with Roy Williams' team.

The fifth-ranked Tar Heels look to win their fourth in a row Tuesday night when they visit the scuffling Demon Deacons.

North Carolina (18-3, 5-1 ACC) leads the country in scoring at 84.9 points per game despite struggling from the perimeter. The Tar Heels shot an ACC-worst 24.7 percent from 3-point range in their first five league games before hitting 10 of 16 from behind the arc in Sunday's 93-81 victory over Georgia Tech.

North Carolina, which has won 12 of 13 since a Dec. 3 loss to top-ranked Kentucky, had not made more than five 3s in a conference game, but Sunday's solid shooting display came as no surprise to Williams.

"We're good shooters. I mean, we really are,'' he said. "We make a bunch of them in practice all the time. I've said the whole time I thought that. ... I believe I said 'when' we started making (shots), I don't believe I said 'if.'''

Harrison Barnes had a game-high 23 points and made all three of his 3-point tries, while Reggie Bullock went 3 for 6 in his second straight start for the injured Dexter Strickland.

Any consistency from long range could lead to even more good looks for the Tar Heels' talented frontcourt.

Tyler Zeller is seventh in the ACC in scoring at 14.8 points per game, just ahead of John Henson's average of 14.2, and those two are each among the conference's top four in rebounding (a combined 19.2 per contest).

Barnes, meanwhile, is second in the league in scoring (17.5 ppg) and has averaged 21.7 points while shooting 56.1 percent since the embarrassing Jan. 14 loss at Florida State.

Those three carried North Carolina in last season's 78-64 victory over Wake Forest, the Heels' sixth in the last eight meetings. Zeller had 18 points and Barnes 17, while Henson had 14 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks.

While North Carolina's offense is clicking, the same cannot be said of Wake Forest's. The Demon Deacons (11-10, 2-5) are averaging 59.7 points on 39.5 percent shooting from the field - 27.3 percent from 3-point range - in conference play.

Wake isn't receiving much production from anyone other than C.J. Harris, third in the ACC in scoring at 17.3 points per game, and Travis McKie, fifth at 16.3. In Saturday's 71-60 loss at Clemson, Harris and McKie combined for 32 points on 11 of 24 shooting while their teammates totaled 28 while missing 19 of 30 shots.

The Demon Deacons were again careless with the ball, turning it over 15 times to go with 13 assists - the sixth time in seven ACC games they've had more turnovers than assists.

"We don't screen well to get people open," coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "We have to take advantage of the opportunities that we get. We can't turn the ball over as much as we did. We have to play better."

That seems like a tall order against North Carolina, which has scored at least 73 points in each of its last 12 victories.

Wake, outscored by a total of 41 points in losing its first two games against ranked foes, has reached the 73-point mark just once in its last nine contests.

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